On Jan. 11, 2023, Bobby McMann made his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators when the Toronto Maple Leafs called him up from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Because of his road to get there, the pure joy and happiness he must have felt upon learning that it was finally his turn to play his first game in the NHL must have been extremely memorable. The 26-year-old forward has worked hard to break into the NHL and hopes to create an impression to prolong his stay with the Maple Leafs. So let’s look at how he got to the NHL.
McMann Goes Undrafted
In the NHL, it’s not unusual for a player to go undrafted and then sign a contract with an NHL team. But McMann’s odds of signing a contract with an NHL organization appeared to be exceedingly slim. He played for four seasons with the Lloydminster Bobcats and the Bonnyville Pontiacs in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). In the 2012–13 season, he spent a short amount of time with the Bobcats, participating in just one game. He then played for the Pontiacs from 2013 to 2016, when he led the squad in scoring in his final campaign (2015–16) with 68 points in 54 games.
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After his time in the AJHL, he decided to play the 2016–17 season for Colgate University in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). McMann, unfortunately, had a decline in his production during his first season with the team, scoring just 19 points in 35 games. He wasn’t chosen in the draft as a result of this. However, in his final year at the university, he was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented to the best men’s hockey player in the NCAA. He would go on to spend the next three years with the Raiders. But sadly for McMann, he finished his collegiate career without being drafted.
Maple Leafs Sign McMann
The Maple Leafs organization signed McCann not long after playing his final season with the Raiders, receiving a two-year deal with the Marlies of the AHL. He did, however, alternate between the AHL and the ECHL, where he played for the Wichita Thunder in 2020–21 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With 17 points in 18 games while playing in the ECHL, McMann made the most of his time there and secured a spot in the Marlies squad the following year.
When McMann played for the team in the top-six during the 2021–22 AHL season, it gave him more opportunities to produce offensively. In 64 games, he finished the season with 35 points, placing him behind Alex Steeves as the team’s second-highest-scoring rookie. At age 25, with a team that took a chance on him, McMann finally had the season that made him stand out. After his successful season, the Maple Leafs decided to reward him by giving him a two-year, entry-level deal for $762,500 annually.
McMann has contributed significantly to the Marlies thus far this season and has 15 points in 17 games. Additionally, he was named the AHL player of the week for the week ending Jan. 8, 2023. His six-point performance in the week before he received the award — three goals and three assists — earned him a call-up to the Maple Leafs.
McMann’s NHL Debut
As soon as the Maple Leafs made the announcement that defenseman T.J. Brodie was going on injured reserve (IR), a roster spot became available, and McMann got the call-up as a result. Following that, when head coach Sheldon Keefe said that star player Auston Matthews would miss the game against the Predators, it meant that he would draw into the lineup and make his NHL debut. When McMann began his hockey career with the Raiders in the AJHL, he probably didn’t anticipate it would take as long as it did. But he managed to get there, and although he probably won’t be a mainstay in the lineup, he achieved his goal of playing in the NHL.
His first game went well; he played 16 shifts for a total of 11:02 on the ice. Unfortunately, he was unable to record a point in his debut, but he did have a few noteworthy shifts, such as the one where he dove for the puck to pass it to Alex Kerfoot for a scoring opportunity. With the unknown injury to Matthews, he may be able to get into a few more games before inevitably getting sent back to the AHL.
Although it is unlikely that he will remain with the Maple Leafs, the NHL experience will be beneficial to his career. Despite that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him excel for the team during training camp next preseason, but only time will tell how his career will develop from this point on. Regardless of the outcome, you can’t help but be amazed by his journey to the NHL.
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Spencer Lazary is a writer at The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He loves to talk about all things Maple Leafs as well as scouting and prospects, he has been writing about Hockey and Prospect Scouting since 2020, and he also is a co-host of a Maple Leafs-themed podcast called “Leafs Talk Forever“